12/01/12 — United, we win: It has been a tough year for many. Giving wisely is important.

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United, we win: It has been a tough year for many. Giving wisely is important.

A day does not go by in most of our lives when we do not receive a call to donate to something.

A local effort, a needy family, even a charity to benefit a local historical landmark, there are plenty of good places to put your money, especially during the holiday season.

And in any other year, you might not think as hard about the dollars you give -- or where you put them.

But let's face it. Many of us aren't sure what to expect in the coming year -- or we have already faced a hardship or wallet tightening because of the fickle economy.

So we are cautious, concerned.

When you judge a charitable effort, it is important to look at the big picture, especially when your own money is tight.

Is it well-run? Will the funds go to the people who need them? Is it reputable?

But this year, especially this year, we also need to look at whether the charitable effort does more than simply put a Band-Aid on a problem.

We need to look for organizations that will demand more, strive for more, take the steps necessary to not just temporarily alleviate the need, but to eliminate it altogether.

In other words, you want an organization that is looking for the solutions that would, in a perfect world, eventually make it obsolete.

The United Way of Wayne County is just such a group.

The local chapter demands that the organizations it supports look at the bigger picture -- encouraging them to join forces to get to the bottom line -- the solutions that will get people off food stamps, out of shelters and into productive lives of their own and that will end generations of poverty and hopelessness.

They teach people to fish. They don't just hand them a fish.

And that is why this organization deserves your support, especially now.

There are too many people falling into the entitlement trap these days. They do not have the skills or the means to change their lives -- or the encouragement to do so.

It would be easy just to hand them food or to show them the social services programs for which they qualify.

But what if, instead, we could help them get the guidance they need to find a job, the clothes and resume help they need to land one and the family skills that will help them create a healthy situation of their own?

What if we could show them a glimpse of what their futures could be?

In this age of handouts and freebies, it is rare that you get the chance to fundamentally change your community.

United Way is a chance to make the statement that your money will go for lasting, significant change -- and to encourage programs that are working to that end.

You can support the education and after school programs that give children the skills they need to succeed.

You can make it possible for a senior citizen to stay in his or her home by providing a warm meal.

You can support relief for families who are facing tough times, and offer them the chance to connect with those who could help them begin a new future.

All that is possible -- if you demand, and expect, more.

Too many times in this country, we accept the halfway, the just enough when it comes to addressing the problems our communities face.

We don't see an alternative. We don't have the chance to really effect change.

By donating to the United Way, you can make the statement that the standard for you is results -- a measurable outcome.

Those on the United Way Board of Directors and the United Way staff will demand it.

We can dream bigger. We can expect more. And we can be the kind of community that doesn't just shake its head at problems, throw money at them and walk away.

We can be the difference.

There is still time to be part of the United Way campaign -- as an individual, as a corporate sponsor or by running an employee campaign. All you have to do is call the office at 919-735-3591.

The time is getting short and there is so much work to be done.

Join the fight for a better Wayne County.

After all, it really is up to all of us to make it happen.

Published in Editorials on December 1, 2012 10:34 PM